The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a virus that compromises your cat's health and ability to fight illness, limiting her life expectancy. Uninfected cats are able to fight it off better with age, but kittens in particular are susceptible to contracting this deadly virus, and you should know the signs.
Kittens with FeLV often develop issues with eating, specifically, a marked lack of appetite. They may also lose weight at a noticeable and unhealthy rate, particularly when their infection is such that they will pass away soon -- a cat or kitten with FeLV will appear to quickly waste away as her life expectancy shortens. Keep careful tabs on how much your kitten eats, especially because lack of appetite can indicate any number of other non-FeLV-related illnesses.
Disease and Infection
When infected with FeLV, a kitten's ability to stave off infections and illnesses is severely diminished. Your kitten may develop an upper respiratory infection, making breathing difficult, or a bladder or skin infection. Her gums may appear pale, and her mouth and eyes will develop a yellow hue, similar to that of a jaundiced cat.
Poor Physical Condition
Your kitten's overall physical condition may visibly worsen when she is infected with FeLV. For example, the condition of her coat will become noticeably worse. Her bathroom habits may change, in that she has persistent diarrhea, and she may vomit regularly. She may develop abscesses in her mouth, as well as falling victim to chronic skin diseases.
Some of your kitten's FeLV symptoms may be invisible to you. For example, her lymph nodes may become enlarged and her vision may suffer. Other internal issues, like neurological disorders, may present themselves in the form of erratic behavior or seizures. Because symptoms like these may not be readily apparent, if you have any reason to suspect that your kitten has contract FeLV, take her to a vet immediately.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.